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Supporters take next step in fight for San Mateo arena

 

San Mateo

Chalk up another win for a group fighting to reopen a popular rink in San Mateo.

On Apr. 18, San Mateo City Council formally rejected a developer’s proposal to turn the ice rink at the Bridgepointe Ice Center into retail stores. The vote is the culmination of a fight that has stretched on for over three years while the rink has been shuttered as the city, developer, and concerned citizens have become embroiled in a battle to keep the rink open over the wishes of developer SPI Holdings to demolish the rink in favor of a more lucrative tenant.

“The city denied the request, but the developer can come back and try and offer another recreational amenity to take the rink’s place to satisfy the requirements of the master plan,” said Dina Artzt, a member of the Committee to Save the San Mateo Rink. “It’s very specific – this recreational facility has to serve the community and people of all ages. It’s likely that anything they come back with will be denied by the city. The problem is that even though the land is designated as use for an ice rink only, there isn’t a clause in the agreement that forces them to operate it.”

While pleased with the victory, the city’s decision not to force the developer to open the rink creates a new batch of problems for the rink’s supporters. In the master plan for the development, even though there is specific language saying that an ice rink must be part of the facility, there is no wording that says whether or not the facility has to be open, a seemingly minor detail that has long been a thorn in the side of Artzt and the rink’s proponents.

“City council stood up and rejected the proposal to remove the rink, but now they’ve tied their own hands because they told him that he didn’t have to operate it,” said Artzt. “They could have said that even though it doesn’t expressly say it, this is clearly a facility that was meant to be operated. As a group, we’re frustrated because we feel like we have to help fix a mess that the city created.

“It’s just ridiculous, but because it wasn’t entered at the time the agreement was drawn up, the city feels it can’t force him to operate it. So that’s our next step – to figure out a way to get this rink open again.”

Artzt and fellow supporter Danielle Dubois recognize that may be easier said than done. As this stalemate grinds on towards a fourth year, it’s becoming more and more apparent that this is a fight that could drag on with no real end in sight.

“The whole reason that protection for this rink was written into the master plan was to prevent a developer coming along and doing this exact thing,” said Artzt. “He wasn’t successful in shutting the whole thing down, but now we’re in a tough spot because he’s not being forced to operate it. We’re working together with the city to try and come up with a win-win. If we can leave the rink there and have the developer get his value from the property in another way, that would be ideal, but that remains to be seen.”

Dubois is adamant that the rink’s advocates are going to be seeing this fight through to the end.

“We won’t go away,” said Dubois. “This is important. It’s a commitment that was made between the city and the developer when the original contract was signed, and we’re making sure they are going to honor that commitment. We have support from all over the Bay Area, including people who don’t even skate, because they can recognize the importance to the community and to our kids of having a facility like this in operation.

“There has to be more to a community than just going home and going to work.”

Photo/Save San Mateo Ice Rink

— John B. Spigott